Thursday, January 12, 2012

Happy Birthday, Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari

Baritone Marc Canturri has recorded the music of Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari (born Ermanno Wolf) (January 12, 1876 -- January 21, 1948) was an Italian composer and teacher. He is best known for his comic operas such as Il segreto di Susanna (1909). A number of his works were based on plays by Carlo Goldoni, including Le donne curiose (1903), I quatro rusteghi (1906) and Il campiello (1936).

Michelle Canniccioni & Ales Jenis in "Il Segreto di Susanna":

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari was born in Venice in 1876, the son of an Italian mother and a German father. Ferrari was his mother's maiden-name, which he added to his own surname in 1895. Although he studied piano from an early age, music was not the primary passion of his young life. As a teenager Wolf-Ferrari wanted to be a painter like his father; he studied intensively in Venice and Rome and traveled abroad to study in Munich. It was there that he decided to concentrate instead on music, taking lessons from Josef Rheinberger. He enrolled at the Munich conservatory and began taking counterpoint and composition classes. These initially casual music classes eventually completely eclipsed his art studies, and music took over Wolf-Ferrari's life. He wrote his first works in the 1890s.

Wolf-Ferrari - Intermezzo from Jewels of The Madonna:

At age 19, Wolf-Ferrari left the conservatory and traveled home to Venice. There he worked as a choral conductor, married, had a son called Max Winterfeld, and met both Arrigo Boito and Verdi. Just a few years later Wolf-Ferrari debuted his first opera, Cenerentola, based on the story of Cinderella. The opera was a failure in Italy, and the humiliated young composer moved back to Munich.

German audiences would prove more appreciative of his work; a revised version of Cenerentola was a hit in Bremen in 1902, while the beautiful cantata La vita nuova brought the young composer international fame.

Wolf-Ferrari now began transforming the wild and witty farces of the 18th-century Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni into comic operas. The resulting works were musically eclectic, melodic, and utterly hilarious; every single one became an international success. In fact, until the outbreak of World War I, Wolf-Ferrari's operas were among the most performed in the world.

Tito Gobbi sings "Aprile o bella" from "I gioielli della Madonna": 

World War I, however, was a nightmare for Wolf-Ferrari. The young composer, who had been dividing his time between Munich and Venice, suddenly found his two countries at war with each other. He eventually moved to safety in Zurich, but the stress and sadness of the war brought him to a complete creative standstill. It was not until after the war's end that Wolf-Ferrari moved back to Munich and began working again. A new melancholy vein appeared in his post-war work; his operas grew darker and more emotionally complex. Among these darker operas was Sly, an opera about a comic buffoon which transforms midstream into a tale of emotional torture and suicide.


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